Commentary, Local, Simpsonville

City of Simpsonville planning to spend more taxpayers money on Grounsell lawsuit

The city officials continue to refuse any settlement offers, despite previous legal counsel suggesting a settlement, which now puts the city at an unprecedented financial risk because they are operating uninsured on this legal claim. That is correct! The previous insurance company appointed an attorney on this matter was dismissed by the Simpsonville city council, which left the city operating uninsured on this lawsuit because they failed to follow his legal advice.

This long-running lawsuit against the city of Simpsonville brought by former police chief Keith Grounsell is moving its way through the courts, all while a very reasonable settlement offer has been on the table and refused by the city.

Earlier this year Grounsell filed a settlement offer with the courts for $35,000. Details of the settlement allowed for a 20 day period for the city to accept or refuse. Also a 9% penalty would be added if the city refused the settlement and was awarded more than $35,000. The city refused this offer. This amount is hardly a drop in the bucket, considering the fact that if Grounsell is successful in civil court the burden would be much greater. Financial penalties of up to $600,000 per count, and there are multiple counts in Grounsell’s lawsuit filed with the courts, which can be ordered to be paid to Grounsell by the city. Meaning, tax payers could have been off the hook for $35,000 but now elected officials decided to roll the dice and potentially cost citizens over $1,000,000.

Now, in a turn of events the city in their determination to continue to fight this lawsuit has voted to spend additional money and contract a new attorney to help fight the case. It’s quite obvious that the city has no interest in settling even though it would make financial sense to the citizens who are going to be held responsible for any expenses and possible damages if they lose the lawsuit in court. Considering the burden of proof in civil court is “the preponderance of the evidence”, which means more likely than not, citizens should be worried how this is being handled. To date, it is uncertain what it will cost the taxpayers to hire another attorney, which will now be the third one representing the city in this case. If it cost more than the $35,000 settlement offer, that makes this a much more questionable decision.

Attorney Andrew F. Lindemann has been contracted to begin serving along with city attorney David Holmes as co-counsel for the city against the Grounsell lawsuit. Depositions that were scheduled for this month have been put on hold to give the new attorney an opportunity to gain background on the case.

The Simpsonville Sentinel filed this freedom of information request dated July 15, 2020:

Pursuant to Title 30, Chapter 4, Section 40-6 (A) of the South Carolina Code of Laws, “Freedom of Information Act” the following request is made effective the date noted above.

Copy of contract between the City of Simpsonville and Andrew F. Lindemann.

Copy of retainer check from the City of Simpsonville to Andrew F. Lindemann.

A detailed listing of all funds paid defending Grounsell v.Simpsonville to date.

I am requesting waiver of any charges as this relates to public information and only copying is required.

However, if there is a charge please advise me at 864-275-0001 of the charge so that I may submit it immediately.

Finally, electronic compliance and delivery of this request is acceptable to the requestor to eliminate the necessity for copying.

Robert Gecy Simpsonville Sentinel

According to City Administrator Dianna Gracley, “the city believes they have done nothing wrong and are determined to defend the case.” Even if that is correct, it is not a wise business decision to spend more money than could have been spent already to settle this matter out of court and without admitting any wrongdoing on behalf of the city. For this reason, the actions of the city appear to be more personal and emotional in nature than wise business decisions of people that are supposed to be good stewards of taxpayers dollars.

City Council has gone behind closed doors on several occasions this year with an agenda identifying the Grounsell lawsuit as a subject.

On one occasion they came out of executive session and took a vote. The motion was to vote on what they talked about in an executive session. The vote was 5-1 in public with no explanation as to what they were voting on. To this day it has not been disclosed what they decided on that night. However, shortly after that meeting, the court filing of a new attorney became public. We still don’t know what that vote was about and this type of secrecy is concerning. It is this type of actions on behalf of city council that led to the initial Grounsell lawsuit, which claims he was never given any due process or public hearing, which he and any other public official are entitled to under SC Freedom of Information Act Laws. The appearance of not being as transparent with the citizens has led to a public outcry to settle this matter.

Moving forward, the schedule is up in the air until Mr. Lindemann has had a chance to review the files.■

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